F-150 Holds Onto Its Crown

By: Anthony Fontanelle

The best measure of a vehicle is its stay in the auto industry. Matter of fact, its existence could do the talking. What vehicle could best sport a good standing than Ford Motor Co.'s F-150. For 31 years now, the F-150 still holds the best-selling pickup title. And it is not willing to let go of the crown just that easy.

At this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford introduced the redesign version of the pickup. The launch of the new pickup is critical to the Dearborn-based automaker. This is because it is struggling to return into profitability. The acceptance of the vehicle by truckers could make or unmake that goal.

Another factor that could hinder the success of the redesigned F-150 is the escalating competition in the pickup truck segment. Rivals in the industry also have introduced their pickup to the market. Chevrolet set free a more rugged Silverado. Dodge has unleashed the new Ram with a throng of cowboys and a herd of cattle. Toyota, meanwhile, has pulled the covers of its redesigned Tundra. All these launches are aimed at snatching a significant portion of the pickup sales.

Over the past couple of decades, Ford's share of the full-size pickup segment, which reaches over two million sales annually, has dived from 48 percent to 32 percent in 2007. In the previous year, when Toyota and General Motors launched revamped full-size trucks, Ford's lead dived to 72,332, its smallest lead in 13 years, reported Autodata Corp.

"I think it's going to be very difficult over the long haul for Ford to maintain that leadership position," said Jeff Schuster, the executive director of global forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates. "Our view is they will retain leadership, but it will be a much closer race than it has been in the past."

"For us at Ford Motor Co., the F-Series is our foundation, our core. It's what the rest of the house is built on top of," said Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president of marketing and communications. "It's fundamental to our turnaround."

Flaunting improved and cutting-edge auto technology, Ford is confident the new pickup can hold onto its crown. "F-Series gives all of us the confidence in execution... that we can apply to the other parts of the business," Farley noted.

"If this doesn't stay the leader that it's been, then Ford is in big trouble, simple as that," Mark Williams, editor of Truck Trend magazine in Los Angeles, said during a media preview of the F-150 at Ford's glass plant in the Rouge Complex.

"It's exceptionally well done... a huge step forward," he concluded the interview with the Free Press. "I think there will be a lot of jaws dropping when this thing comes out."

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